Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Opportunities

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Pamela Slim’s Body of Work is amazing; I am only 60 pages in, but I understand why professionals I look up to like Garr Reynolds and Nancy Duarte recommend this book. I cannot wait to integrate its ideas into the course and share Slim’s insights with students! Today, I’ll be working on creating the assignments for the month after finishing Slim’s book. I’m hoping to get down to designing lessons this week and next. Previously, in discussing the upcoming PCP reboot, I covered the challenges the team faces:

  • Challenge #1: The lack of synchronous communication
  • Challenge #2: Understanding and engaging in presentation as a process
  • Challenge #3: Streamlining content
  • Challenge #4: Universalizing the experience for multiple degree programs
  • Challenge #5: Emphasizing the first P in Professional Communication and Presentation

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Now, I’d like to talk about how we are working to turn each challenge into an opportunity for growth and what tools/concepts we’re using to tackle those challenges.

Opportunity #1: Google Hangouts to add synchronicity

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Without synchronous communication with both instructors and classmates, students never really get an understanding of how important rapport and connection are in the presenter/audience relationship. Presenting like you are having a conversation is a real challenge when your conversation is with a little green dot or camera. In order to add a bit more synchronicity to the course (in addition to weekly GoTo Trainings), students will now meet for two Google Hangouts in small teams. The purpose of these Google Hangouts is three fold. Firstly, students will be able to engage in self-analysis of their progress on the major course project, considering their strengths and areas of growth. Secondly, students will have a chance to communicate live with their peers, collaborating on project revisions and improvements. Finally, through this medium, students will have a chance to practice delivery and execution while completing fun improv exercises.

Opportunity #2: Using self-analysis and peer-analysis to reinforce process

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Currently, students engage in a bit of self-reflection in weeks 1 and 4 of PCP. First, they consider their goals, challenges, and pitch topics for a persuasive presentation. Then, in week 4, they complete a revision worksheet that includes a reflection on advice portion. Students consider the feedback they’ve received, the amount of time they’ve devoted to the project, and the time they’ll need to finalize the presentation. Peer analysis comes in the form of asynchronous discussion response posts. In the reboot, this will change a bit to include self-analysis and peer-analysis in the Google Hangout sessions. Another way we are working to make asynchronous discussions richer and more collaborative is to ask students to now videotape their responses to one another on discussion boards as opposed to asking them to write these responses out. From Alex Rister’s experience in public speaking online, videotaped responses generate stronger and more applicable feedback. Finally, self and peer analysis will help reinforce that presenting involves a systematic process of creating, designing, critiquing, and delivering.

Opportunity #3: Placing more emphasis on GoTo Training lessons

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Weekly GoTo Training lessons are currently used to reinforce the week’s lesson and activity concepts as well as cover some of the pitfalls of completing work in the course. This, however, means that they are not really used to their greatest potential–as a means of recreating the much more effective live class session, where in students are engaged in activities that reinforce what they learn via the course text and brief class lectures. In the new iteration of PCP, these live sessions will be the primary mode of instruction, with video and text lessons serving as supplements. Whereas currently students would teach themselves what a brand mantra is by studying an article by Megan Mars and watching a video on the subject, students will now learn this concept in a live class session where they can ask questions, get immediate feedback for their mantras, and collaborate with others to better understand and apply this technique. Without attending or watching the archive of a GoTo session, students will not be able to learn the concept as successfully.

Opportunity #4: Focusing on what students want to learn

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It’s been a difficult though enlightening transition from gen ed class for business students only to gen ed class for a variety of business, creative, and technical programs. Our challenge in teaching this many different types of students how to present online in one month was finding common ground, either skills-based or thematic, that would allow all students to engage with the content, their classmates, and the place of their new skills set in their professional futures. Currently, while a persuasive presentation on a non-industry related subject helps students apply their skills to a persuasive presentation delivered with visuals, the students didn’t always seem to see how this skill would fit into their careers. This made the PCP team cringe–what could be more important than learning how to effectively communicate and present your vision to others!? What we had to acknowledge was that finding a subject all students want to learn more about and also focusing their major project on something that would be immediately relevant was more important than learning presentation skills in general. What is the goal of each of our students in earning a degree? To propel themselves to professional success! This desire to grow professionally became our common ground. This leads us to the the most exciting opportunity of this reboot–the Professional Persona Project!

Opportunity #5: The Professional Persona Project

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Pamela Slim believes that a body of work is baed on the connective thread between a professional’s experiences (Source). It’s not about distinct experiences working in a vacuum; it’s about the big themes that connect all of the work you do or will do. The Professional Persona Project is an opportunity for students to consider their development and growth as professionals so far, where they see themselves going as future professionals, and how they can better communicate their unique skills as professionals in a specific field to a target audience (individual, company, or specific facet of their industry).  In this project, students will be analyzing their skills, assets, qualities, and abilities as a professional (assets). They will then consider their aspirations and goals as professionals. Finally, they will analyze the market realities in their chosen field. They will then present this information through a set of visuals and an elevator pitch. The Professional Persona Project is a showcase of what students have learned so far; work they’ve done in and out of school; and their qualities and skills (work ethic, technical abilities, communication/presenting skills, teamwork, etc.). The goal is for them to recognize their own strengths and to highlight those strengths by presenting them in an engaging, professional, and visually-driven way.

Tune in next week to learn more about the new course structure!

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One thought on “Professional Communication and Presentation Reboot: Opportunities

  1. […] Professional Communication and Presentation reboot has entered the lesson-building phase; we’ve secured our new course textbook, developed […]

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